The sky was at its bluest and the clouds their whitest on that sunny but crisp October afternoon as I sped down the interstate trying, by sheer force of will, to shorten the two-hour trip to the hospital. I had no room for thoughts other than the silent whispered prayers for intercession.
My dad had begun hemorrhaging and the ambulance summoned by my mother had just pulled out of the driveway when she called my office. There were so many things I needed to say and words I needed to hear. This man had been central in my life for 40 years and I found it impossible to believe we didn’t have more time. Death always comes as an ugly surprise, regardless of age or circumstance.
Racing at 85 mph, hoping there were no state troopers lurking behind the berms, my hands shook and my heart beat as though I had run a marathon. Suddenly, a song on the radio answered my questions, filled my need. I could hear my father talking to me, they were his words anyway, of that I was certain and they were telling me exactly what I wanted him to say and what I needed to say to him, “I will Always Love You.”
“And I hope life will treat you kind And I hope that you have all
That you ever dreamed of
Oh, I do wish you joy And I wish you happiness
But above all this I wish you love
I love you, I will always love you” Dolly Parton
So, all these years later, every time I hear this song I am pulled back in time. Even now writing this, my tears are as fresh as they were on that drive so many years ago and my heart swells with love and affection for the man who was my Dad.
It seems as though my every life event of consequence has a theme song and I relive days, both happy and sad, in the replay of the music. Richard Thompson’s “Dimming of the Day” reminds me that I have loved and been loved in return, that the intimacy that completes the circle is not beyond the sphere merely out of reach.
I allow myself to swim in Clair de Lune; my heart swells, I hold my breath, waiting…..waiting…..for that next bar that will take me through the waves and out to sea.
How can I limit my words about the power of music in my life? I have a dear friend, a songwriter and performer, who saw me teetering on the edge of an abyss and sent me his song “Some Things You Gotta Keep, Some Things You Throw Away.” The words brought me back to safety and I carry them with me always, remembering and calling them up when I need them the most. Billy Preston and Dennis Wilson’s “You Are So Beautiful” was the lullaby I sang my baby daughter and even as I hear it today, I can feel her in my arms, fighting the sleep that wants to carry her away and I can smell that beautiful scent that is my child. When I leave this earth, these are the memories that I will carry with me into eternity.
Music is such a powerful influence in my life, a companion, a friend, a shelter, something to which I turn for comfort as well as pleasure. Some people hear music as background sound but for others of us, it colors our soul and rounds out the edges that are sharpest. It is the nourishment that sustains us after we have been living on bread and water.
When writing about my photography, I said “Great images are the ones that make me wonder what happened one millisecond before the click of the lens or one millisecond after the image was captured. A great photo, like a great piece of music, is one that carries me into the unknown. Its the river on which I can travel toward the ocean.”